Duterte ‘not satisfied’ with Xi’s response on arbitral ruling issue

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    PRESIDENT Duterte last night said he was “not satisfied” with the response of Chinese President Xi Jinping that China is not budging and not recognizing the 2016 arbitral ruing that favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

    The President said he told Xi this during their bilateral meeting in China last week after he raised the issue of the arbitral ruling and his Chinese counterpart reiterated China is not budging.

    “Sabi ko it will remain a problem. It would be a thorn, just like a sore thumb that will stick out painfully every day. Ako naman out of courtesy, sabi ko, I will not, maybe, insist on your answer now, but I am not satisfied with your answer (I said it will remain a problem.

    It would be a thorn, just like a sore thumb that will stick out painfully every day. Out of courtesy, I said, I will not maybe insist on your answer now, but I am not satisfied with your answer,” Duterte said.

    He said he recognized that China is under a lot of stress due to protest actions in Hong Kong and he believes that the China sea row should be discussed further at the right time.

    “May problema sila, so mainit ang ulo niyan, so i-timing mo. That’s the art of diplomacy, iyung palaro-laro ka (They have a problem, so they are angry. So you need to time it right. That’s the art of diplomacy),” he added.

    The President, meanwhile, said he is considering the inclusion of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a five-man steering committee he would create to discuss the possible joint exploration with China for oil and other resources in the West Philippine Sea.

    He said he would still decide if he would also include Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi in the committee.

    Duterte also reiterated his preference for a 60-40 sharing of resources in favor of the Philippines.

    Lorenzana said the President Duterte took up with Xi Jinping the issue of uncoordinated passage of Chinese warships in Philippine waters, during his visit to China last week.

    Xi responded by saying ships are not required to seek permission when passing through the waters of another country, he also said.

    Lorenzana was among the Cabinet officials who accompanied Duterte during the visit to China last week.

    “Yes, it was raised by the President,” he said when asked about the uncoordinated passage of the Chinese warships.

    “The reply of President Xi is that international law does not require permission from ships passing thru territorial waters of another country,” he added, referring to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    Lorenzana said President Xi also assured President Duterte “that naval ships (of China) are not coercing or targeting the Philippines.”

    At least 13 Chinese warships were monitored to have passed through the Sibutu and Balabac straits from February to August 4. Worse, the ships turned off their automatic identification systems.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed diplomatic protests over the incursions, which Lorenzana described, days before Duterte’s visit to China, as an “irritant” issue that should be discussed during the Duterte-Xi meeting.

    About two weeks ago, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Duterte wants all foreign vessels that would pass through the country’s territory to first secure clearance from government or they will be dealt with “in an unfriendly manner.”

    Lorenzana yesterday said President Duterte’s order will remain in place. “That’s the President’s prerogative. The Navy already has a proposal on how to implement it,” he said.

    Officials earlier said several agreements were reached during the meeting of Duterte and Xi, including avoidance of provocative acts that would impair relations between the two countries in connection with the West Philippine Sea dispute.

    Lorenzana has said he trusts China to abide by the agreement “but we must also be cautious.”

    China claims most of the South China Sea while the Philippines claims part of it, like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The West Philippine Sea covers the Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.

    The Philippines filed a case against China’s massive claim to the South China Sea before the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines. Duterte also took up the ruling with Xi.

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. yesterday said the President did not sound apologetic at all when he raised the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim with Xi.

    “The reports that the President was apologetic in raising the arbitral award is a total fabrication, and in every aspect a complete lie,” Locsin told a hearing of the House committee on appropriations on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ P22.55-billion proposed budget for 2020.

    Locsin even went as far as saying that the President had “always” raised the country’s victory in the United Nations arbitral case in his previous visits to China.

    Locsin later asked for an executive session with the congressmen, during which he discussed previous instances when the President raised the arbitral ruling with the Chinese government.

    Malacañang earlier described the President’s fifth visit to China as “fruitful and productive” while Panelo said it was “successful and highly productive.”

    Panelo, quoting President Duterte, earlier said on the issue of arbitral ruling. “I didn’t want to alarm you with what I’m about to raise because of your problem in Hong Kong, which is why I’m asking for forgiveness, but I need to say this because I promised my countrymen.”

    He said Xi replied: ‘I understand, and I am okay with it.”

    Xi then rejected Duterte’s plea and reiterated his country’s claim over almost all parts of the South China Sea.

    TWO DECADES

    Locsin, a former Makati City congressman, expressed belief that the territorial dispute with China will not be resolved in the next two decades.

    “Well, if I look at the future, this what I see… none of the conflicting issues in the South China Sea will be resolved in 20 years from now,” he said.

    Locsin, however, said government “will never surrender a square inch of what we claim is ours.”

    Locsin said he has been consistently filing diplomatic protests whenever Chinese incursions in Philippine waters are reported.

    While he believes that filing diplomatic protest “is like throwing a paper boat on a brick wall,” Locsin said he still continues to do it “because the experts say keep doing it, because that way, nobody can say that we have given up what we believe are our rights.”

    Locsin noted that at least 60 diplomatic protests have been filed since Duterte took office in 2016, of which 29 were filed during his term.

    “I have changed the language of our diplomatic protest from the usual diplomatic niceties to direct protests. No nice words anymore, just objective ones,” he said. – With Victor Reyes and Wendell Vigilia